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US Demands Release of Diplomat in Pakistan

  • Ayaz Gul

US consulate employee Raymond Davis is escorted by police and officials out of court after facing a judge in Lahore, Jan 28, 2011

US consulate employee Raymond Davis is escorted by police and officials out of court after facing a judge in Lahore, Jan 28, 2011

The United States has called for the immediate release of one of its diplomats being detained in Pakistan on murder charges.

The detained American diplomat is accused of shooting to death two armed men in an action U.S officials say was "self-defense." The incident took place on Thursday in a busy part of the eastern city of Lahore.

The U.S embassy in Islamabad says it regrets that the incident resulted in loss of life, but says the diplomat is being held unlawfully.

A spokeswoman at the American diplomatic mission, Courtney Beale, says the United States has requested immunity under the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations to seek the release of its diplomat.

"He [the diplomat] had every reason to believe that the armed men meant him bodily harm because minutes earlier the two men who had criminal backgrounds had robbed money and valuables at gunpoint from a Pakistani citizen in the same area," explained Beale. "Local police and senior authorities failed to observe their legal obligation of verifying his status with either the U.S. Consul General in Lahore or the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. Furthermore, the diplomat was formally arrested and remanded into custody, which is violation of international norm under Vienna Convention to which Pakistan is a signatory."

The spokeswoman says that U.S. officials are working closely with the Pakistani government to secure the immediate release of the diplomat. The American national identified as Raymond Davis, and identified by the U.S. embassy in Pakistan as a staff member of the U.S. consulate, faces double murder charges over the deaths of two motorcyclists. A third Pakistani was crushed to death by a U.S. Consulate vehicle that went to help the diplomat shortly after Thursday’s shooting incident.

A court in Lahore handed over the diplomat to the police on Friday on a six-day physical remand to complete the investigation into the incident that also has sparked small protests across Pakistan.

On Friday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the parliament that authorities will proceed in the matter according to Pakistani laws. He was responding to the opposition's allegations that the government was trying to protect the U.S diplomat.

"I have also ordered an inquiry whether he [the diplomat] was allowed to keep that gun with him in Pakistan," said Malik. "If he was allowed, did he have a license? I assure the house that nobody has a right to violate law of Pakistan."

In an apparent brief response to Saturday’s U.S demand seeking release of its diplomat, a Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman reiterated that the matter involving the American official is under investigation and before a court of law, saying the legal process should be respected. Pakistan and the United States are close allies in the war against terrorism and bilateral relations have also improved in recent years. But anti-American sentiment runs high in the Mulsim nation lately stemming from suspected U.S drone strikes in Pakistan's border region that al-Qaida and Taliban leaders are believed to be using for attacks on international forces fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

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